2003 - 2004
April 7, 2004
Generals unsure of what may lie ahead
Factors other than the Generals' disappointing finish cloud the future of coach Rick Adduono and his veteran players.
BY LARRY KEECH
GREENSBORO - Three days after falling a point short of an ECHL playoff berth, Greensboro Generals coach Rick Adduono and the team's nucleus of veteran players tried to put the season behind them Tuesday as they looked toward an uncertain future.
"This team owes no apologies," Adduono said. "I've coached championship teams, and I'm as proud of this one as any. They worked hard and played their hearts out. There were a lot of hugs and tears in our dressing room last Saturday night."
The Generals posted a 4-2 road victory over the South Carolina Stingrays in the regular-season finale to finish with a 40-30-2 record and 82 points. But South Carolina claimed the Southern Division's fourth and last playoff berth with 83 points. Roanoke and Florida tied for second place with 84 points.
The outcome ended a two-year run in which Adduono's teams won 82 games and reached the second round of the 2003 ECHL playoffs.
"If somebody had asked me if I'd take 40 wins when the season began, I'd have accepted that deal," Adduono said. "Any coach would have. But this turned out to be an unusually tough division, and the teams beat each other up more than you'd expect."
Try as he might, Adduono couldn't come up with the one or two players he needed to complement his strong roster of veterans.
"I never was able to find the forward with the eye of the tiger or the defenseman who could provide an additional physical presence," Adduono said. "Last season, Jay Murphy and Shane Campbell filled those roles. We had five or six guys who tried to fill the void this year, but it wasn't enough."
The Generals won 20 games on the road and the same number at the Greensboro Coliseum. Adduono was pleased with the road number, but disappointed that his team was unable to capitalize on its home-ice advantage.
Rick Adduono - Photo Credit: The News & Record
"This team owes no apologies," said Generals coach Rick Adduono.
The home game that stuck in the Generals' craw was a 4-3 shootout loss to the Gwinnett Gladiators in the season's final week. The Generals surrendered the tying goal with 23 seconds left in the third period, then had to settle for one point for an overtime loss instead of two for a victory.
When asked how close the Generals came to making the playoffs, captain Mark Turner replied: "Twenty-three seconds."
Although Adduono and his players profess an affinity for Greensboro, their future here is hostage to the uncertainty surrounding pro hockey in general and the Greensboro franchise in particular.
An NHL labor-management impasse appears likely to result in an owners' lockout that would indefinitely delay the start of the 2004-05 season for hockey's major league. Although there will be no work stoppage for the ECHL, AHL and the rest of the sport's minor leagues, there is likely to be a trickle-down effect for pro players.
Greensboro's ECHL franchise also is in the throes of a transition in ownership. Matt Brown, the coliseum's managing director, oversaw the team's operations during the 2003-04 season after former owner Bill Black and Don Brady agreed to form an ownership group to assume control of the team in '04-05.
Adduono is under contract as coach through May 31. Although he has made no secret of his ambition to move up to the AHL, he is not averse to returning if such an offer is not forthcoming.
"Greensboro can continue to be a special situation, and my plans are to continue to promote, recruit and work hard for this franchise," he said. "Even if another opportunity arises for me, I want to help Greensboro as much as I can to secure a proven coach and players."
But even if Adduono does return, some of his key players will not because of the ECHL's roster rules.
"I dread making those decisions," he said. "I'm a players' coach with a soft heart, but a coach has to try to make the best decisions for his team as deadlines approach. There'll be a point when I can only protect eight players, and we'll only be able to keep four veterans who've played as many as 260 ECHL games."
Two of the team's most popular players may not return. Goaltender Daniel Berthiaume, 38, was the heart of the team in 2002-03. But a family crisis, along with a daily four-hour round-trip commute from his home in Virginia to Greensboro, were factors in a late-season slump. Forward Matt Turek has indicated this would be his last season as an active player.
"Daniel Berthiaume played a big part in rebuilding this organization," Adduono said. "His problems affected his game big-time. But he's a young 38, and I still think he's a premier goaltender."
Other Generals stars such as Turner and leading goal-scorer Mike Bayrack said they are happy enough with Greensboro and Adduono to return unless they were to receive a solid AHL offer.
Contact Larry Keech at 373-7080 or firstname.lastname@example.org